Why Do Cats Shake Their Heads After You Pet Them?

Why Do Cats Shake Their Heads After You Pet Them?

While petting your furry babies, you may be familiar with behaviors such as arching their back and closing their eyes. However, you may also notice that they are shaking their heads after you pet them.  

Why do cats shake their heads after you pet them?

Cats shake their heads after you pet them for the following reasons:

1. To realign their fur

Cats are known to be very particular with their grooming and this includes being fussy with how their fur is aligned or positioned.  If you are petting them their fur may become unruly or out of place so a cat’s reaction would be to shake her head once you are done petting her.  She may just be doing this to realign her fur and to position it back to its normal placement.  

2. They feel uncomfortable and overstimulated

Cats may seem aloof but they do adore being cuddled and petted by their humans. However, some people just do not know how and how much to pet them. As a result, cats may become overstimulated and agitated and may express their discomfort by shaking their head. 

Other signs which indicate that a cat is unhappy with the petting session include the following:

  • turning or shifting their head away 
  • remaining passive 
  • shaking the body and exaggerated blinking 
  • short bursts of grooming 
  • twitching or rippling skin along the back 
  • thrashing or thumping the tail 
  • ears flattening to the side 
  • turning their head to face your hand 
  • swiping, biting or batting your hand away with their paws 

3. To warn you to stop petting them

Cats may also shake their heads to warn you not to pet them any further. It may be their way of saying that they have had enough. They may also walk away after shaking their head to signify how they feel. 

4. It may mean they have a health issue or have an ear infection or ear-related problem

Have you noticed your cat shaking her head or body after or while you are petting her? She may have an underlying medical or health issue such as low blood sugar or hypoglycemia.  It may also mean that your cat has an ear-related problem. 

These are just some of the ear-related issues among cats that result in headshaking:

  • ear infection due to bacteria or ear mites
  • a foreign body lodged inside the ear canal 
  • allergies 
  • fly bites on the tips of the ears 
  • excessive ear wax
  • polyps in the ear canal 
  • immune-mediated disease 

If this is the case, you should bring your cat to the vet.

Why do cats raise their backs when you pet them?

Cats may raise their back when you pet them to let you know that they trust you and appreciate your gestures. They may also do this to amplify the pressure since it helps in spreading and transferring their scent through the anal glands. Felines have unique ways to express gratitude as they may also raise their back end to your face. It may look offensive but your cat is actually telling you that you are petting her in the right places. 

Cats may also raise their backs to amplify the tactile pleasure, especially when petted near the base of the tail due to the nerve endings in this area. They may also do this as a way of remembering their kitten days where they present their back-end to their mom for grooming and cleaning and since you are seen as their “surrogate mother” they are extending the gesture to you.

How to properly stroke or pet a cat?

Cats may become agitated if petted or stroked in the wrong spot so it is essential to be aware of your cats preferences.  Try to focus on spots with scent glands such as under the chin, the base of the ears and around the cheeks. Use your fingertips to gently rub these areas and you may also stroke her from the forehead to the tail. By spreading their scent, cats tend relax and calm themselves. 

Make sure to only apply gentle pressure and scratch her gently. Petting should also happen on your cat’s terms so you should let your cat come to you and allow her to have control over the interaction. Your cat should have the choice to indicate where she wants to be petted and for how long. Avoid stroking the belly area, their feet or paws and the base of the tail since most cats do not like it and it is considered vulnerable spots for them. 

Pay close attention to your cat’s posture and behavior her and always remember that less is more when it comes to petting cats. If you notice that your cat’s ears are flattening against the head, she is twitching her tail, fidgeting and hissing or growling, she is already overstimulated. Stop petting her before it leads to aggressive behavior such as biting or swiping at your hand.


Cats enjoy being stroked and petted as a way to form a deep bond with their humans. They show their appreciation in various ways such as purring, closing their eyes and raising their backs. However, they may also shake their heads after you pet them to indicate discomfort or overstimulation and may also do it to realign their fur or because of an ear-related problem.

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